films seen
18
average score
2.94*
nationality
China - 70 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

Chen is a very competent fifth generation director who handles both rural dramas and big fantasy epics with deceptive ease. One of the few who survived the big millennial shift in China, resulting in a rich, varied and satisfactory oeuvre.

Rare treats

Legend of the Demon Cat

by Kaige Chen
Kukai
2017 / 129m - China
Fantasy, Mystery
Legend of the Demon Cat poster

Kaige Chen builds upon his previous film and delivers a magnificent fantasy/mystery. The plot is laid out step by step, progressing calmly and deliberately, but it's the visuals that blew me away. The shoddy CG is kept to a minimum this time around, the rest is simply eye-wateringly beautiful.

The good stuff

Monk Comes Down the Mountain

by Kaige Chen
Dao Shi Xia Shan
2015 / 123m - China
Comedy, Fantasy
Monk Comes Down the Mountain poster

Monk Comes Down the Mountain is above all a very amusing film. Chen made a light-hearted, fun and playful little romp, which rises above itself thanks to its tremendous production value.

Solid pieces

Sacrifice

by Kaige Chen
Zhao Shi Gu Er
2010 / 122m - China
Drama
3.5*/5.0*
Sacrifice poster

Forever Enthralled

by Kaige Chen
Mei Lanfang
2008 / 147m - China
Drama
3.5*/5.0*
Forever Enthralled poster

The Promise

by Kaige Chen
Wu Ji
2005 / 121m - China
Fantasy, Action
3.5*/5.0*
The Promise poster

The Emperor and the Assassin

by Kaige Chen
Jing Ke Ci Qin Wang
1999 / 162m - China
Drama, Romance
3.5*/5.0*
The Emperor and the Assassin poster

Temptress Moon

by Kaige Chen
Feng Yue
1996 / 130m - China
Drama, Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Temptress Moon poster

The inoffensive

The Battle at Lake Changjin

by Kaige Chen, Dante Lam, Hark Tsui
Chang Jin Hu
2021 / 176m - China
Action, War
3.0*/5.0*
The Battle at Lake Changjin poster

So, China found out that people love a good war flick. In recent years, there's been a notable rise of blockbuster war films, with big-name directors tied to them. The Battle of Lake Changing did even better and tied no less than three of the biggest directors in China to its production, just to manage its scope.

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The plot isn't all that interesting, except that for Westerners it might be somewhat novel to see the US army as the bad guys, whereas The Chinese soldiers are the heroes. You basically get three battles round and about Lake Changing, highlighting the bravery, perseverance and comradery of the Chinese army.

You can't escape propaganda in a film like this, and if that triggers you, it's probably best to ignore this film altogether. If on the other hand you just see good guys smashing up bad guys, the film certainly delivers in spades. The scenes with the tank in the little village are superb, the rest of the action is on point too, but three hours is a little much. It's not a great film, certainly not up to the level of the names attached, but I had fun with it.

My People, My Country

by Kaige Chen, Hu Guan, Hao Ning, Muye Wen, Zheng Xu, Xiaolu Xue, Yibai Zhang
Wo He Wo De Zu Guo
2019 / 158m - China
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
My People, My Country poster

There's a lot of flag-waving and chest-thumping going on here, but look past that and you'll find a decent anthology celebrating the achievements of the little people, helmed by some of China's prime directors. It was a little too sentimental and overdone in places, but it wasn't as terrible as I had initially feared it would be.

Chacun Son Cinéma

by Theodoros Angelopoulos, Olivier Assayas, Bille August, Jane Campion, Youssef Chahine, Kaige Chen, Michael Cimino, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, David Cronenberg, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Manoel de Oliveira, Raymond Depardon, Atom Egoyan, Amos Gitai, Hsiao-hsien Hou, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Aki Kaurismäki, Abbas Kiarostami, Takeshi Kitano, Andrey Konchalovskiy, Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, David Lynch, Nanni Moretti, Roman Polanski, Raoul Ruiz, Walter Salles, Elia Suleiman, Ming-liang Tsai, Gus Van Sant, Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders, Kar-Wai Wong, Yimou Zhang
2007 / 100m - France
Comedy, Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Chacun Son Cinéma poster

King of the Children

by Kaige Chen
Hai Zi Wang
1987 / 106m - China
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
King of the Children poster

A nice and solemn little drama about a teacher moving to a small mountain commune in order to tutor the local kids. The pacing is rather slow, but the setting is beautiful, the cinematography is on point and the actors do a solid job. The token social critique isn't very subtle, but the film had enough other qualities to keep me engaged.

Worthy but flawed

Water Gate Bridge

by Hark Tsui, Kaige Chen, Dante Lam
Chang Jin Hu Zhi Shui Men Qiao
2022 / 153m - China
Action, War
2.5*/5.0*
Water Gate Bridge poster

More Chinese war propaganda. The Battle at Lake Changjin must've been quite the success, or this endeavor was simply so huge that they figured a second film would be necessary to recoup the effort. If you're looking for 150 minutes of action and sentimentality, Hark, Lam and Chen have you covered.

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The plot is basic, we get another battlefield where the Chinese soldiers are allowed to show their bravery, their commitment and their selflessness. This time they're monitoring a bridge that is right on the escape route of the American troops. A strategic location that will form the center of another heated battle.

The action is pretty spectacular, but it does get quite messy, and the film doesn't really let up. And when it does stop, it's only to make room for some sentimental drama. It's a shame, as these directors are capable of making way better films. Let's just hope they're not turning this into a trilogy.

Caught in the Web

by Kaige Chen
Sou Suo
2012 / 117m - China
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
Caught in the Web poster

Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet

by Kaige Chen, Víctor Erice, Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki, Spike Lee, Wim Wenders
2002 / 92m - UK
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet poster

Together

by Kaige Chen
He Ni Zai Yi Qi
2002 / 116m - China
Drama, Music
2.5*/5.0*
Together poster

A decent but very predictable drama. Performances are all over the place, the plot isn't all that interesting and characters remain quite stereotypical. It's not a terrible film though and Chen's baseline quality shines through from time to time, but I expected more from this film. Decent filler, nothing more.

Farewell My Concubine

by Kaige Chen
Ba Wang Bie Ji
1993 / 171m - China
Drama, Romance, Music
2.5*/5.0*
Farewell My Concubine poster

Plain forgettable

Yellow Earth

by Kaige Chen
Huang Tu Di
1984 / 89m - China
Drama, Music
1.5*/5.0*
Yellow Earth poster

Kaige Chen is a director whose career got off to a rough start. Part of China's 5th Generation, his early work lacks the finesse of fellow director Yimou Zhang and is easily categorized as a bland and depressing arthouse drama. Yellow Earth is another film about the Chinese revolutionaries, full of poverty-stricken rural vistas and shrill Chinese folk songs.

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Yellow Earth is a widely celebrated film of course, everyone in the West loves it when China portrays itself as a nation full of country bumpkins who are trailing at least one century behind Western civilization. I've grown tired of these films and without the stylistic prowess of his contemporaries, there's just very little here for me.

Performances are mediocre, the soundtrack is a struggle and the landscape photography isn't as nice as it should've been. The entire film ends up being a test of patience, with only a handful moments that break free from its depressing reigns. At least it's not too long, but I prefer Chen's more recent output.

Big nopes

The Big Parade

by Kaige Chen
Da Yue Bing
1986 / 94m - China
Drama
1.0*/5.0*
The Big Parade poster